Celtic reaction: Brendan Rodgers slams 'incompetence', takes aim at John Beaton, makes Rangers 'winning' comment and issues Callum McGregor update

The Celtic manager was left enraged by two game-changing decisions in match against Hearts

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers hit out at “incompetence” from officials Don Robertson and John Beaton after Celtic lost 2-0 to Hearts at Tynecastle.

The defending champions arrived in Gorgie knowing that a win would move them back above Rangers with nine games to go in the Premiership title race, but it was Hearts who prevailed in a controversial match in Edinburgh. Jorge Grant scored a debated penalty just before half time before Lawrence Shankland added a second goal on 57 minutes, while Celtic were forced to play the majority of the match with ten men due to VAR-provoked red card for their winger Yang Hjun-jun on 16 minutes.

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Rodgers seethed over the nature of the two big flashpoints that went against Celtic. For Yang’s red card, given for a challenge that caught Alex Cochrane in the face, on-field referee Robertson originally issued a yellow card, but on the advice of his VAR Beaton reviewed the decision and upgraded it, while for the 42nd minute penalty, Robertson was called to the monitor once more and pointed to the spot for a handball against Tomoki Iwata.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers looks dejected as he leads his players off Tynecastle following the 2-0 defeat by Hearts.Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers looks dejected as he leads his players off Tynecastle following the 2-0 defeat by Hearts.
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers looks dejected as he leads his players off Tynecastle following the 2-0 defeat by Hearts.

"My feeling is that the game was decided by the officials – on the field and outside of the field,” said Rodgers. “You guys will know me long enough to know that I don’t really comment on officials – they make mistakes and whatever else. But today that felt like really really poor officiating.

“The first one is the sending off when there is no force. Show a still image of that and of course and you will see a foot up with the head near it, but it’s not the reality of the move Don got it actually right on the field.It was a high boot, so it’s a yellow card – no malice or force. For John Beaton to actually look at that in VAR, supposedly under no pressure, and say that was sending off? I find that incredible.

“The second one is worse. If you have a penalty go against you for that then there will be penalties every single weekend and midweek. I don’t know what he is supposed to do. Tomo is jumping, he got a nudge, he is coming down, the ball falls on to his arm and there is no intention to move. Then you get the penalty against and he gets the chance to look at it and see it. That really left us with an uphill task in the game and credit to my players. They kept going, their keeper has made a few good saves. If we get one of them it changes the momentum of the game. But it was a poor day for the officials."

Rodgers was left in no doubt that the VAR technology is not to blame and the decisions were borne out of “incompetence” from the officials. “I also think as well that VAR is not the problem here, that’s clear,” the Celtic boss continued. “It’s competence. And I think the first one is a great example of the game being refereed outside of the pitch. This is the thing everyone is talking about, that the officials do their job and if it’s something that’s clear and obvious maybe step in. The referee made the decision and someone outside made another decision to say it was a sending off. So that’s the game being refereed outside of the field and in big games that costs you.

Celtic's Callum McGregor watches on injured from the Tynecastle stand.Celtic's Callum McGregor watches on injured from the Tynecastle stand.
Celtic's Callum McGregor watches on injured from the Tynecastle stand.

“I’m not one who comes crying about referees, be it here or the EPL, because I understand there will be mistakes made. But that today was awful officiating in what was a big game for us.”

Rodgers was asked if it was the worst display of officiating he had experienced during his time in Scotland and he responded: “I think so. In my time up here I’m not one to have a go at refs because I understand it’s a very very difficult position they are in. I try to respect decisions and give the benefit of the doubt. But I think when I see that level of incompetence is the only word I can use, then that makes me worry for the game. In such a tight title race, which it is and it’s fantastic and great to be involved in, that can make the difference. And that today made the difference for us.”

Rodgers was rueful of not taking advantage of Rangers’ surprise slip-up against Motherwell on Saturday after they lost 2-1 to Motherwell but reinforced that, just two points behind their Old Firm rivals, the destination title is in their own hands with two league Old Firm matches to go. “You would never have said yesterday before Rangers lost to Motherwell at home that they would lose,” the Northern Irishman said. “Everything I hear is that they are going to win every single game through to the end of the season. But we know it’s about us. It’s still very much in our hands. We’ve got 12 games to go. Nine league games and we want to be in the cup final on the 25th of May. We will fight for every competition we will be in. We had the chance to go top. It was unfortunate the way the game panned out for us. We now have to recover and go away and get to the semi-finals next weekend.”

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Celtic were without captain Callum McGregor due to an Achilles issue and Rodgers admitted that he could be a doubt for Scotland’s double-header against Netherlands and Northern Ireland later this month. “I don’t think it will be long-term but it may last through to the international break,” he added, before being pressed on the potential of being unavailable for the national team. “I don’t know. He may well do. He has a further scan on Wednesday and then we will get to see where he’s at. If he’s not going to be involved for us he obviously won’t be involved for Scotland.”